I’m not using the word in its colloquial meaning of ‘mad’. I’m sure HRH is a paragon of sanity.
Nor do I wish to denigrate his work for the Royal Foundation, organised to promote his, his wife’s and his brother’s charitable impulses. It’s just that the part of this work that most fascinates HRH concerns mental health.
Now, I wouldn’t be the first to suggest that people are nowadays obsessed with psychology more than ever before.
In the absence of any higher values their inner selves assume an undue significance. They are encouraged to delve into their psyche and then share every perceived anomaly with all and sundry. Traditional – and laudable – British reticence is castigated as ‘repression’ and ‘bottling up the emotions’, with supposedly detrimental effects.
Naturally psychiatric disorders, such as clinical depression, do exist. However, clinical problems are best dealt with by, well, clinicians.
The rest of us, like HRH, simply don’t know enough about this area to contribute anything helpful to the discussion. The opportunities for sounding excruciatingly vulgar, on the other hand, are rife and HRH seldom neglects to take advantage of them.
His forthcoming BBC discussion of ‘mental issues’ with the footballer Marvin Sordell is a case in point. Reading the preview I wondered if Prince William has contracted Covid.
For the sake of the dynasty, I hope he hasn’t. However, he does show one known symptom of coronavirus: absence of taste. HRH seems to think that babbling about one’s problems to anyone willing, or at a pinch even reluctant, to listen is an unequivocally good thing.
However, I’ve known several people suffering from clinical depression, and none of them could have been helped by a public chinwag.
They sought qualified medical help, which typically came in the shape of psychotropic drugs, accompanied by some therapy. For, my psychiatrist friends tell me, such diseases are either caused or accompanied by abnormal biochemical activity.
Controlling it with medicines usually controls the depression – on this they all agree. They do at times diverge on the relative importance of counselling, with many just shrugging their shoulders: can’t hurt, could help.
Obviously, psychiatrists need surgeries, hospitals, salaries, equipment and other costly things. Any charity is therefore welcome, but that doesn’t mean psychobabble is. Medical talk is best left to medical professionals.
Yet I’ve also known many people who use the technical term ‘depression’ when talking nineteen to the dozen about their bad moods, inclination to melancholy or sadness caused by bereavement.
In the past, such self-indulgent individuals were told to pull themselves together and have a stiff drink. I for one can’t understand how it’s possible to let one’s emotions run riot for too long when Laphroaig, Tanqueray and Absolut are readily available. If the sufferer is a friend, I’ll happily share such delights with him and listen.
But those people shouldn’t be encouraged to pour their hearts out to anyone but family and close friends. For one thing, when doing so it’s almost impossible not to overstep the boundaries of good taste.
Enter HRH, talking to Sordell who seems to suffer from real depression and has attempted suicide in the past. That’s unfortunate, and I hope his doctors are working overtime.
Yet I can’t imagine his condition improving as a result of being exposed to a barrage of HRH’s platitudes, expressed in the language of downmarket faux-sensitivity.
Moreover, I’d rather not be a subject of a king capable of saying “It’s okay to not be okay”. ‘Not to be’ would have been an improvement, but only a marginal one.
Royals shouldn’t sound like tabloid agony aunts for the whole family. That punches holes in their aura of mystique, which, in the absence of executive power, is an important part of their raison d’être.
The footballer complained that: “I grew up without my father… and now I’ve got a child. I don’t really know how I’m dealing with this and I really struggled with my emotions at that time.”
People who can’t cope emotionally with having children shouldn’t have them. Instead they should seek treatment and only consider procreation when the therapy has succeeded.
HRH could have suggested it to Sordell, perhaps couching that advice in more compassionate words than mine. Instead, he echoed the striker’s complaint with one of his own: “Being a dad was overwhelming after losing my mum.”
It seems that the words ‘father’ and ‘mother’ have gone the way of the masculine personal pronouns. Somehow we’re supposed to replace them with soppy prole equivalents. I bet William’s father doesn’t refer to his parents as ‘mum’ and ‘dad’.
No upper-class people do. They may say ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’, and in fact Prince Charles has referred to Her Majesty as ‘mummy’ on a number of occasions.
Then again, the word ‘after’ sounds as if the loss of William’s ‘mum’ was closely followed by his becoming a ‘dad’. In fact the two events were separated by 16 years, which is enough time to come to terms with the tragedy and not let it remain ‘overwhelming’.
On we go, in the same vein: having children is “one of the most amazing moments in life, but also one of the scariest”.
I’ll buy “one of the most amazing”, but what’s so scary about it? Was William worried about paying babysitters? Future school bills? The possibility that little George would grow up to be like Harry?
And then: “But I think emotionally things come out of the blue that you don’t ever expect, or maybe you think you have dealt with.” How much more banal can one get?
I’d better stop – thinking about the future of our monarchy makes me too depressed for words.